Although a small collection, the Lansing papers contain a varied array of materials: 38 pieces of correspondence between Lansing and various family members, journals of his trips to Europe and to South America, journals of his medical training, assorted poems and Valentine poems by Lansing, his sketchbook and several loose pencil sketches, the text of his graduation speech from Rutgers, a lecture on "thought and thinking" which he delivered in 1848, his estate inventory, a few receipts and business letters, miscellaneous correspondence between other family members, an autograph book and theme book which probably belonged to a niece, 11 unidentified photographs, part of a magazine article depicting the Lansing family homestead, and a few pieces of peripheral miscellany. (The sketch book, autograph book, and European diary have been removed to a separate pamphlet box.) Also included in an introductory folder are obituaries of Lansing, his article on frogs, and published proceedings of the Albany Medical Society which record his participation.
This collection is not as rich in research potential as one would hope, given the subject's varied travels and career changes as documented in the manuscripts. Most of the correspondence and journals are revealing of Lansing's personality, opinions, and philosophy rather than abundant with details on places, people, and activities. One comes to know the man intimately, but not to be able to place him very confidently in a social and professional context.
Probably the greatest value of the papers is in the information which can be gleaned from them on medical education and practice in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Lansing's medical school journals, especially the section covering his training at Bellevue Hospital in New York City (1853 June 27-December 17), are full of details on medical lectures, learning how to diagnose and treat various diseases and conditions, the performance of autopsies, surgical procedures (especially gynecological operations), and pharmacology. Given Lansing's analytical and opinionated nature, these depictions are often both informative and insightful as to the nature of medical science during this era. He writes on August 2, 1853: "I attended a part of Motts Clinique at the University and saw some noteworthy cases. He ordered a plaster over a sore breast and said when the patient had retired that was always his way when he didn't know what a thing was to cover it up with plaster and spoke of it as a rule to be adopted in life to cover up what we don't understand with plasters. I don't exactly like the principle." Lansing also includes in this journal segment a horrifying description of a woman's death of gangrene of the intestines after surgery for an ovarian tumor -- highly evocative of the primitive nature of surgery and infection prevention in this period.
The European and South American journals also contain some material on hospital conditions and medical training and practice, specifically in Paris, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires. There is an interesting account of Lansing's unsuccessful treatment of a tuberculosis patient while ship's physician on the "Seaman," and of the man's subsequent death and burial at sea. The correspondence covering Lansing's years of practice as physician at two insane asylums and at Clinton State Prison are disappointing in their lack of detail on medical practice; only a few general descriptions and anecdotes on patients and incidents are provided. Published accounts of his participation in the Albany County Medical Society, however, are more informative, for they present case studies which illustrate typical diagnoses and treatments of various illnesses.
Interesting minor sidelights of the collection are descriptions of the manufacture of an artificial arm for Lansing's brother-in-law, and some technical details about a candle making process involving lard-oil which, through his studies in chemistry, he was helping a friend to develop. Lansing's poetry also constitutes a minor but entertaining resource, for it exemplifies the sentimental nature of social and literary expression in this era, as well as revealing the author's wit and style.